On the occasion of the exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules, and the performance program Limited Edition, Projects + Perspectives and Open Space invited artists Alex Escalante, Keith Hennessy, and Leyya Tawil to offer their thoughts on three iconic dance works included in the Rauschenberg show — and to link these works to three contemporary pieces. On P+P you’ll find Merce Cunningham’s Antic Meet, Trisha Brown’s Glacial Decoy, and Robert Rauschenberg’s Pelican, and on Open Space you’ll find robbinschilds’ Sonya and Layla Go Camping, Skywatchers’ I Got a Truth to Tell, and a collaboration between Mohamad Bayoumi, Michael Ibrahim, and Mohannad Ghawanmeh.
by Alex Escalante
Piercing audio waves. Piercing purpose that is directional and slices through space. Tidy systems that overlap but never directly communicate, yet make total sense as a collaborative entity. Effortless. Humor: Dry.
Extreme focus is always present. The commitment has no room for distractions.
(An aside: the chair that briefly adorned Merce’s back in this dance would later in life become his permanent vehicle. Me, behind his back, pushing him through life in New York City and on tour around the world when I worked as his assistant. I once sped down the rainy cobblestone streets of Paris trying to get him to the theater in time for his tossing of the dice that would establish that evening’s alchemy of its distinct parts. I had overslept. He bobbed up and down in his wheelchair, escaping the injury that certainly would have come about had I erred in my risk-taking. How he wished to be cutting through space on his own accord.)
Austere surroundings. Vaudevillian roots that poke at the classicism of early experiences. The anti-Martha. Breaking with the traditionally mundane. No meaning. No emotion. No Symbolism. Processing the residue that history imprints. Drawing from it all.
If it wasn’t for Black Mountain…
When I encountered “the chair piece” in my first year of dance history class in college, I knew very little of Merce Cunningham and little to nothing of Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage. I couldn’t have wagered a guess as to what a prepared piano could be. It was the beginning of my real education.